July 16, 2015

Breaking it Down: Self-Taped Auditions

With today’s easy access to cameras and editing software, actors are being called upon more and more often to tape their own auditions. Not only do self tapes allow casting directors to see a larger number of actors, they also present a great opportunity for New York actors to audition for LA projects. However, due to the huge amount of actors casting directors see for each role, nailing your audition is a must. Here’s some advice to make sure your self tape books the job!

1. Do not look directly into the camera while performing your scene. Instead, focus on your reader or a fixed point that feels comfortable and natural. It’s important to make sure that your reader stands to the left or right of the camera lens, rather than right behind it, so you don’t appear to be looking into the camera. The only time it’s acceptable to look straight into the lens is while slating.

2. Try not to film your self tape on a cell phone unless absolutely necessary!! There are many pocket sized HD video cameras that are very affordable and will significantly improve the quality of your self tape. A great option is the Take 1 HD Camera.

3. Be off book! If you’re looking down at the paper it’s hard for casting to see your face, and a lot of the expression is lost. We know that self tape requests often come with very short notice, but try your best memorize the material before taping. If being off book isn’t possible, make sure to refer to your sides in a subtle manner by holding the paper down low so it isn’t blocking the face. It’s also IMPORTANT to always memorize and strongly deliver the first and last lines! This way, the casting director can see your face at the beginning and end of your tape.

4. All details matter, so be a perfectionist! Always do a test shot and watch it back before taping the entire scene. Make sure that the camera is focused and the face isn’t shadowy.

5. Try to film in front of a plain white wall. If that’s not possible, use a solid color wall without photos or decorations. Most importantly, do not film in front of a window as this will cause the face to be in shadow. Casting will only have a few minutes with your tape, and you don’t want their focus to shift away from your acting.

6. Do not film the entire body unless it is specifically asked for by casting. A good framing is from the elbow to about two inches above the head.

7. Always film in a comfortable location. Don’t shine a light directly in your face or stand near a bright window.  It can be very distracting for the casting director if the actor is squinting or blinking throughout the scene because of improper lighting.

8.  DO NOT add intros or transitions with graphics, pictures, or music. Due to their busy schedules, casting directors don’t want to waste time looking through any unnecessary footage. It’s best to get right to the scene itself. If anything, these edits tend to hinder more than help.

9. Never zoom in and out while the actor is saying his or her lines, as this can be distracting. Do your best to make all camera adjustments before the scene begins.

10. For important self tapes, we HIGHLY recommend being taped at a professional studio with an acting coach. A high quality tape will improve your chances of getting cast and more importantly, a professional coach can guide you through the sides, provide insightful tips, and serve as a fabulous reader who will GREATLY strengthen your audition. In particular, if you are asked to re-record a scene with specific feedback from casting, working with a coach can help you see the scene differently and make good adjustments. A couple of fabulous coaches are Denise Simon and A Class Act NY. We know that hiring a professional can get a little expensive, but for a big audition it’s a worthwhile investment!

To check out our “How to Self Tape” video, click here!!

By Catherine Melillo